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Checking in with the newly unemployed

People stand in line to meet potential employers at a career fair held on March 21, 2012 in New York City.

Stacey Vanek Smith: Economists expect the unemployment rate in May to stay right around 8.1 percent. That number gets a lot of attention, but it can be a little abstract.

So we sent Mitchell Hartman to a job center in Portland, Oregon to talk with people who are just hitting the unemployment lines.  


Mitchell Hartman: People become unemployed every day, for all kinds of reasons -- some having nothing to do with the recession or business conditions.

Take Kara Kay. She's a hospice caregiver.

Kara Kay: I worked for a wonderful woman for about two years and she passed away a week ago, so I'm unemployed.

But she's not worried -- not yet. Her kids are grown. She gets about $250 a week on unemployment.

Kay: And I do have a savings account -- there's a phenomenal concept for you.
Hartman: And what are you looking for?
Kay: Now that's a good question. I'm going to be 55 next month. I've done this for 23 years. I'm very good at what I do. And I'm also very tired of it. It's difficult physically, it's difficult mentally and emotionally, it's exhausting spiritually, and because I'm unemployed, I have the option of being retrained.

Kay's eager to get on with that. The days of federal unemployment benefits stretching out nearly two years are over. Her checks from the state will probably run out in 6 months.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

About the author

Mitchell Hartman is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Entrepreneurship Desk and also covers employment.

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